National Geographic Live presents ‘Untamed Antarctica’

Isabel Menzel, Reporter

On Feb. 4, the Mesa Arts Center hosted ‘Untamed Antarctica,’ a presentation of perseverance against the ultimate battle of the elements. Mike Libecki, a National Geographic explorer and Cory Richards, a photographer and videographer for National Geographic, discussed their larger-than-life ten day climb to the summit of Bertha’s Tower in one of the most isolated places on earth.

The presentation was part of the National Geographic Live series, which features elaborate presentations and documentaries from some of today’s most adventure-driven explorers, brilliant scientists and uniquely creative filmmakers and photographers.

“National Geographic Live aims to connect people with the world around them.  Every presentation moves me and teaches me about the world I live in,” Randall Vogel, assistant director of theaters and operations at the Mesa Arts Center.

The Mesa Arts Center is the exclusive venue in Arizona that hosts the series. Their partnership began in 2007 and they have been hosting four presentations a year since then. Proceeds from the sales assist in funding future National Geographic explorations and educational projects.

Casey Blake, the director of public relations at the Mesa Arts Center is no stranger to the presentations.

“The things that they see in the field have an impact on the world,” Blake said. “They’re really bringing that first encounter, that first experience to us, which isn’t the same as watching it on TV. You get to see all the pain stinking steps that went into getting that shot.”

‘Untamed Antarctica’ was led by Mike Libecki, a California raised explorer who began his journey with National Geographic in 2008, and was awarded as one of the National Geographic Adventurers of the year in 2013. The world renowned explorer describes himself as living a “life,” half his time perusing his passionate dream for adventure and the other half at his home with his 11 animals and 11 year old daughter. He has taken part in 60 explorations throughout his life, but his goal is to do 100 before he reaches 100 years old.

“I’ve got 40 more to go. I never get enough.” Libecki said. “I’ll be getting ready for an expedition where all of my training has lined me up for it and at the end of that expedition, it became my training for the next one. It really is an obsession and an addiction to go on one of these adventures.”

He was inspired to go to Antarctica because of the rarity in it; the un-explored and the vulnerability of existing as a human being in the mercy of the elements.

“The main thing I liked about where we went to climb is that it is the most remote climbing place you can go,” Libecki said.

Libecki met photographer and videographer Corey Richards at the beginning of the exploration in Cape Town, South Africa. When they reached their destination in Antarctica, their nearest help was 2,500 miles away. The team was required to put complete faith in each other’s talents to survive as they endured 25 mile an hour winds in grueling temperatures that ranged from 0 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

The entertaining duo project positive vibes and enthusiasm even as they share their most grueling challenges. Richards vividly described how the combative winds whipped team member’s tent into the air, and came crashing down against a jagged cliff side while he was still inside. They endured frost bite, and plum-sized blisters; taking the audience far beyond the polished and stimulating photo or documentary that defines National Geographic.

With humor, Libecki describes these situations as “joy and pre-joy,” the motivating and optimistic message that even the hardest times are just a stepping stone to the ultimate satisfaction of success.

“I think what I do is 100 percent mathematically safe, and a lot of climbers will debate that. Fear is your friend out there because it makes you so aware of what is going on. You meet every emotion out there and there’nothing more powerful in this life than emotions. It’s beautiful,” Libecki said.

Libecki, having the opportunity to name the never before climbed 2000-foot rock tower, named it “Bertha’s Tower,” after his Grandmother, who supported him to follow his dreams and not in the safe footsteps of mediocrity.

Libecki cherishes his team and work with the magazine and has no intention of slowing down. He will be leaving for his 60th expedition this month and will continue on his journey of inspiring and teaching people to fall back in love with the mystery and adventure this planet beholds.

“I’m living what I dreamed to do, I feel very fortunate on that same regard,” Libecki said. “It’s not just me or my partners, but hundreds of people are involved who make this possible. It is just an honor to work with them. It’s the icing on the cake for this lifestyle.”